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Vulnerable witnesses: AXX v Zajac [2022] EWHC 2463 (KB) - Anisa Kassamali, Temple Garden Chambers

24/11/22. CPR Practice Direction 1A on the participation of vulnerable litigation in civil proceedings came into force in April 2021. The High Court (Master McCloud) considered the provisions for the first time in AXX v Zajac [2022] EWHC 2463 (KB).


The claim relates to personal injuries suffered by Mr AXX in 2016 in a road traffic accident with Mr Zajac. Mr AXX alleges that, amongst other minor injuries, he suffered a traumatic brain injury with various neuropsychiatric symptoms resulting from this. Mr Zajac denies that Mr AXX’s psychiatric condition was caused or contributed to by the accident.

The core issue before Master McCloud was whether there should be a split trial between causation and quantum. This brought CPR Practice Direction 1A into play.

Mr AXX is not in receipt of antipsychotic medication because he will not take it. His symptoms mean that he is not engaging well with medical experts, which his representatives say limit those experts’ ability to provide clear prognoses ([7]-[10]). They take the view that with a case manager appointed and with further medical input it would make it more likely that he would receive medication. However, such input comes at a significant cost. An interim payment is unlikely to be forthcoming without a decision on causation, and so they ask for a split trial to facilitate this medical input and so assist Mr AXX to “place his evidence before the court” ([12]-[17]).

High Court decision

Master McCloud ordered a split trial on causation and quantum ([30]).

It was accepted by the parties that Mr AXX fell within scope of the Practice Direction. He was “vulnerable” by reason of his psychiatric conditions ([22]).

CPR Practice Direction 1A.1(5) directs the Court as follows...

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